Symbols and Subtleties of Media by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

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Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University's College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)

Symbols

By Larry Burriss
04/29/2019
I saw an interesting composite photograph the other day, and it showed several rows of 4,000-year-old hieroglyphics over several rows of four-year-old emojis. And guess what: the looked the same. Egyptioan Hieroglyphics
So let me see if I understand this: some people today think it is so modern and contemporary to use pictures to convey ideas and emotions, which was exactly what was going on in the time of the pharaohs.
And remember, the entire field of heraldry is based on using pictures and symbols to convey ideas and status.

 

Of course, part of the allure of emojis is they are a kind of modern code that apparently only the young think they can decipher.  But guess what: many of us grandparents can look at the clothes some people are wearing, and we can tell almost everything about their life and career. And I bet kids today would have no idea how to decipher the code.
I’m referring, of course, to the ribbons and badges worn by military personnel and some first responders. These codes and symbols tell almost everything about a life of service.
But think about this: the meaning of the entire writing system of Egypt, one of the world’s greatest empires, was lost after only a couple of thousand years, and was deciphered only in 1799, and then only with the discovery of the Rosetta Stone.
Now all this this may seem pretty silly, but here’s a more serious issue: I assume we are all familiar with two of the most important symbols around, biohazard and nuclear material.
So I wonder how long it will be before the meaning of those symbols is lost, and someone a couple of thousand years from now will decide to open a canister with nuclear material and biohazard warning labels, and have no idea of the dangers of what is inside?
As we’ve often said, there is nothing new under the sun, and apparently the future will not be much different.
I’m Larry Burriss

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